Category Archives: faith

a lighter load

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My mom gave me this book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young for Christmas.  Last year a local Christian radio station read from it daily and I was often so encouraged by her words.  She took her own prayer journal and her increased awareness God’s daily presence in her life and created a devotional filled with Jesus’ words to her and us that we would have a greater sense of “God with us.”  Each day is written as if Jesus were speaking directly to us.  Because He is.

Today’s words are taken from Isaiah 41:10, Zephaniah 3:17 and Psalm 34:19

The world is too much with you, My child.  Your mind leaps from problem to problem to problem, tangling your thoughts in anxious knots.  When you think like that, you leave Me out of your world-view and your mind becomes darkened.  Though I yearn to help, I will not violate your freedom.  I stand silently in the background of your mind, waiting for you  to remember that I am with you.

When you turn from your problems to My Presence, your load is immediately lighter.  Circumstances may not have changed, but we carry your burdens together.  Your compulsion to ‘fix’ everything gives way to deep, satisfying connection with Me.  Together we can handle whatever this day brings.

I love this reminder from some of my favorite passages of scripture.  I will travel lighter today, sharing my burdens with the One who carries them with me.

what is your agenda for God?

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My notes from Sunday’s sermon …  (we are currently going through the book of Matthew, verse by verse).

Matthew 16:21-28

[21] From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. [22] And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” [23] But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

[24] Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [25] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [26] For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? [27] For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. [28] Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

What is your agenda for God?

-we all have God’s agenda for our life .. like Peter, we want our lives to play out a certain way.

-many of us would agree, “I want a trouble free life … I will follow on the path as long as the path is safe, secure and predictable.

What do you do when God doesn’t allow your agenda and when God doesn’t feel safe to you?

How do you respond?

-we often respond in fear, depression and anxiety.

-many of us just shut down.

Maybe God is  messing up your agenda because He is trying to get your attention!

-He wants us to become undone and to surrender to His agenda for us.

Matthew 16:21-28 looks at the Gospel agenda of God.  This is an agenda we should rejoice in.

v. 23 Jesus rebukes Peter for questioning Him.

-Peter is not setting his mind on the things of God, but rather on the things of Satan … denying what Jesus says and what He came to do.

Jesus declares that Peter is a stumbling block.

Peter is trying to play God here, to declare how things should be.

We must ask ourselves, “Have I put myself back on the throne as a little god?”

Those of us who claim to trust in Jesus, would say that He is Lord of our life, that He is on the throne in our life.

But practically, are we living that way?

What Peter is starting to get here is that the kind of Messiah Jesus is has implications for discipleship.

Are we ready and willing to ask, “ok God, what is YOUR agenda for me?”

v 24 talks about Peter wanting to maintain control of his life.

Jesus says, ‘no.’

-denying yourself says you forsake the idea of self-preservation, whatever that means.

-turn away from safety and step out and follow Jesus.

Taking up a cross is taking up an instrument of death … it’s not as some would say as a hardship in life. It’s following Jesus.

God’s agenda for us is for us to follow Him.  To risk.  Safety is what we want, but it’s not God’s agenda.

So what would compel us to choose a life that does not have an agenda of safety?

What would be our motivation for following Jesus?

 v 25 states that whoever tries to save his life will lose it.  Only through faith in Christ are we accepted by God.

Jesus is our righteousness.

He is our treasure.

Why would we follow Him?

It’s the only way to eternal life.

If you abandon God to pursue the world you forfeit your soul.

Faith expresses itself in following Jesus.

Application:  In what areas of our life can we risk ‘safety’ and self-preservation to follow Jesus and live for His Kingdom

1.  Giving

-how are we risking personally in our giving?

2.  Justice / mercy

-in what ways are we showing mercy to those who are abandoned or oppressed?  the needy in our community and in the world?

3.  Neighbor

-in what ways are we risking in our neighborhood? community? schools? as a result of following and living for Jesus?

4.  Gospel proclamation

-are we speaking the good news of Jesus to others?

poolside reading

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Freshly copied from Justin Taylor’s blog today .. from my iPhone, while reading at the pool .. a great word for me today & hopefully an encouragement to many …

 

JUSTIN TAYLOR|12:55 PM CT

Wanderlust, Flights of Fancy, and the Goodness of God

From a post from my younger brother:

I have a confession to make. A lot of my fantasies don’t turn out that great. Throughout middle school (and even high school), I always wanted to run away from home. Did I have a terrible home life and parents who beat me? No, in fact I had a great high school experience of being involved after a bad middle school experience of being excluded. I wasn’t running from something—I was running to it.

Here was the vision. Leave in the middle of the night with a wonderful note to my family explaining everything, fly a helicopter made out ofPopular Science magazine (the kit cost $195), take beef jerky and rations for 6 months to a year, fly into the deep forest and crash land my plane, read a lot of books and learn another language, lift logs in order to build a shelter, come back with a beard, tanned, and to the amazement of those who saw how fit I was, deeper, wiser, and more self-fulfilled. . . .

OK, so it was a combination of self-indulgent fantasy, one too many Gary Paulsen Hatchet books, and an immature romanticism. Mark Twain wrote poignantly of the difference between theory and reality in Life on the Mississippi. The Mississippi was better when it was mysterious and imaginative to the rough kid rather than scientific and dissectable to the seasoned gentleman pilot.

So it was with my adventure. Feeling overwhelmed with school, I almost got away in the night only to have a friend tell my parents what I was up to. They sent me with some harsh words, forgiveness, and $20 to Applebee’s for milkshakes with my brother and sister.

In college in New York, I again caught that bug and traveled several hours upstate to probably one of the remotest places I found with wildly labyrinthine roads to a friend’s cabin–it was in the middle of nowhere. Now I’m from Iowa so I don’t use that phrase lightly. My goals were more modest: read a few novels, commune with God, be one with nature for three days.

What happened? Darn Reality raised her ugly head with knowing spectacles, furrowed brows, and the ol’ school marm hairdo. The forest was magnificent but the black mosquitoes swarmed in my eyes, ears, and even tickled the back of my throat making it nearly unbearable. Knowing that if there was a bear, that would be the end of me, my tough guy Grizzly Adams, Nebuchadnezzar, Crocodile Dundee persona faded into Timmy the Pampered looking for mother. In the river, I slipped on a mossy rock and gravity, another rock, and my head made for a perfect storm of pain. At night, an eerie mounted deer head and the darkest black (yes, I have never ever seen pitch black like it), made my all-too-tiny heart palpitate. Velvet black air combined with weird visions of the curtains being drawn back and a hand coming in at the window. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, but I could hear one. Was it my imagination? No—it was real! I was not alone in the room.The footsteps and the presence came closer as I frantically struggled to light the lantern to discover him there in the room as we were miles and miles from any living soul if he indeed had one…

A mouse. What would be the worst thing that could happen? Well, I suppose getting a few scampering fleshy pink feet up the old groin would be fairly uncomfortable. MacGyver-like, I filled a bucket with three inches of water, a board leading up to it, and a swab of peanut butter just inside the bucket. Ten minutes later, I heard a ‘splash,’ followed by thirty seconds of struggle, and then silence. I felt guilty all night.

It is good to be able to look back and smile at our flights of fancy and our foibles.

But it also made me think of this C. S. Lewis quote on Ray Ortlund’s blog:

I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion—which raises its head in every temptation—that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it.

The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . .

The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply goodspoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite—an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.

—C. S. Lewis, They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963), ed. Walter Hooper (New York, 1979), p. 465. Italics original.

 

Hope for Your Dark Night of the Soul

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a great article from Justin Taylor’s blog today . . .

Hope for Your Dark Night of the Soul.

 

” . . . That was the beginning of the way out. And I remember saying to myself literally hundreds of times—every time these feelings of hopelessness and panic and a desire to ball up in a fetal position would come on me—“I feel completely hopeless because I am hopeless, but Jesus Christ died for hopeless people, and I’m one of them.”

Over time I began to believe that. And today when I tell people that Jesus is a great Savior, I believe it, because I know that he saved me. That’s where my joy comes from. My joy comes from knowing that at the very bottom, at the very pit of who I am, it is blackness and sin, but the love and grace of Jesus goes deeper.”


AMEN.

regret

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The following is a link to the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation website featuring an article by Ed Welch, counselor and professor at CCEF.

We all have “if only’s” and regrets in our lives . . . as I’ve been wrestling with mine . . . I found this article to be so encouraging.

“If Only . . .” Living with Regrets | CCEF.

The link isn’t working consistently .. so, I’m posting the article.  The CCEF website is  http://www.ccef.org/

 

“If Only . . .” Living with Regrets

Ed Welch

Regret photoIt feels so right – so spiritual – to live with regrets. It means you feel bad for the wrong things you have done or think you have done, and that sounds like a good thing. If you forget those wrongs, you are acting like they were no big deal.

How many “if only’s” do you have in your life?

If you have a scrupulous conscience, you lost count long ago. For the rest of us, there are a few basic categories of regrets.

  1. Things you did that were especially shameful, which means that they became public and the public did not approve of them. Perhaps you failed in school or work, had legal problems, or did something immoral.
  2. Things you did that either purposefully or (more often) unintentionally hurt someone else. Car accidents, sexually transmitted diseases, poor parenting of a wayward child, and recklessness while intoxicated make this list. “If only I had left 5 minutes later I wouldn’t have hit that person.” “If only I hadn’t gone to that party…etc.”
  3. Things you think you could have done to avoid a catastrophe. If you have a specific moment when the course of your life took an irreparable turn for the worse, then you will be able to think of dozens of things you could have done differently. Bad marriage? You will review the list of old marital prospects and wonder why you didn’t pursue them. Most anyone who has known someone who committed suicide will be afflicted with regrets. “If only I had just called.” Most women who have been sexually violated ruminate, “If only I . . . (yelled, trusted my instincts that something was wrong, went with my friends).
  4. I knew a woman who was so filled with regrets that the burden of them felt normal. The first “if only’s” registered as weights on her soul, but it’s like wearing ten-pound ankle and wrist weights all the time, after a while you no longer notice them. You feel sluggish and tired all the time, and everyone else seems to be going at a different emotional tempo, but, somehow, that’s normal.

    Here is the paradox.

    We live with regrets because we think we should. We think it’s the right thing to do—that it is our duty before God. But…

    The Kingdom of Heaven is regret-free. The truth is that the triune God liberates us from past regrets. His will is being done. Bank on it. Neither your human limitations nor your sins hinder the good plans of your sovereign Father.

    Let’s go one important step further. It is God’s will that you jettison past regrets. They only make you feel unqualified and, therefore, unfruitful.

    Now to the line up. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter and Paul, to start. They all had good reason to have a bad case of the “if only’s”. King David is the most severe example. His sin with Bathsheba resulted in the death of their son and his conspiracy to cover up the adultery caused the death of her husband. (2 Sam.12) Even worse, his sin of numbering the people led to the death of 70,000 Israelite men (2 Sam. 24). His remorse was great, and his repentance sincere, but you won’t find lingering regret. In its place is doxology to the Lord who freely forgives sins.

    Consider Jonah. He was an enigmatic character whose flight from the Lord nearly resulted in the death of an entire crew and did result in his being swallowed by a fish. A belly of a fish is an ideal place for regrets, especially when you know you brought it on yourself – “if only I would have just gone to Nineveh” – but instead it became a holy place where Jonah came to his senses and proclaimed, “Salvation is of the Lord.”

    Regrets? What about Paul? He watched approvingly as Stephen was stoned to death. (Acts 7:59-8:1) He zealously hunted down Christians, sent them to prison and approved of it when they were put to death (Acts 26:9-11). Yet, after his conversion, though he clearly disapproves of these acts, he does not dwell on past sins, rather he writes: “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

    But, in the post-resurrection era, it is Peter who is our mentor in handling regrets. After all, he knew Jesus from the beginning, and assumed that his egregious sin of denying that on the night of Jesus’ arrest demoted him back to the rank of fisherman. Not that there is anything wrong with fishing, but Jesus had changed Peter’s vocation to fishing for people (Matt.4:19), and, for Peter, regular fishing signaled his own conviction that his sins disqualified him from Kingdom service. Peter assumed that his calling was no longer valid. But breakfast with Jesus and a walk on the beach changed everything. (More on this in the blog, “The World’s Best Epilogue— Ever”).

    Try to find a hint of regret or “if only’s” in his two letters. Instead, following King David’s lead, Peter opens with perhaps the most spectacular and eloquent statement of hope in the New Testament, which ends with this exhortation: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). He is reminding us that life in Christ rests in what Jesus has done and looks forward to what he will do. We are visionaries. We look ahead. We hope. We aim to be drawn by the beauty that is almost within reach rather than be restrained by the regrets of the past.

    Hearing anything here? Hope rising? If not, you believe that the Kingdom of Christ is where you pay for past sins, past indiscretions, or just being a human being who isn’t omniscient and omnipresent. You believe that if you store up enough regret and remorse you can finally sneak out of your self-imposed purgatory – though, as you already know, no matter how much you stockpile the stuff you always feel as though you must add a little more. That is not the Kingdom where Jesus reigns.

    Maybe you believe your regrets will be your protective talisman to help make sure you don’t repeat past sins. That makes sense and sounds spiritual, but it’s a false gospel. It is the sweet mercies of God that compel us to fight sin. One way to identify the nefarious nature of regrets is that they do not give mercy the prominent seat at the table. These regrets might be so stubborn that they will only leave through repentance. While you have been repenting of your perceived contribution to past regrets, the real reason to repent is much closer to the present: you are saying, “Lord I don’t believe that you cover my past, though you probably cover the pasts of other people, and I certainly don’t believe that confidence in your goodness and hope for tomorrow is even permissible.” Call it unbelief. If you want to get nasty, call it pride, in which you believe yourself rather than the Lord. Either way, repent.

    I have my own regrets—you have yours. God’s mercies are stockpiled even higher.


    Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF.

hope

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A friend shared this passage with me this morning .. I just had to post it!

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:21-25 ESV)

What I have never noticed previously in this passage, verse 21, “I call this to mind,”.  Another great reminder of the benefits of right thinking .. the steadfast mind has HOPE .. “The Lord is my portion … I will HOPE in Him!”

Revisiting the Psalms

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125:1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
the Lord will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!


a few years back, I did a study on the psalms of ascent (Beth Moore’s Stepping Up bible study) .. I recently dusted it off and have been revisiting it.  As I’ve been thinking on the idea of Trust this week, this Psalm especially stood out to me.

I love the picture of God surrounding us as the mountains surround Jerusalem!

 

Psalm 34:17-19

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

but the Lord delivers him out of them all.


“God’s great deliverance in itself presupposes a trouble from which the person was delivered.  God’s closeness to the brokenhearted presupposes a difficulty that broke the heart.  … God never promised to remove us from the human experience, but for those of us who call Jesus Savior, the only difficulty we’ll ever experience will be right here.”

This psalm is illustrated in the New Testament with Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:22,

22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.


I liken this to physical exercise .. something I can relate to.  It’s challenging, it can be painful, it leaves us out of breath, muscles must break down to build up, and it can be discouraging when we don’t see results right away.

“God’s delivering us from every ounce of trial will never develop the relationship that occurs when God shows Himself faithful in the midst of difficulty, delivering us through it.”

This is where we come to know Him and to depend solely on Him .. where our faith is strengthened .. where we are called to Trust!